Navigating daily life with accessibility needs is hard – there’s no question about that. But why struggle more than you have to? If you have accessibility needs, or know someone who does, we’ve got the solution to many of your daily issues. With more and more apps being developed every day, there is an increasing number of apps you can make use of to make your daily life easier.
There are apps with many different ways to help with various accessibility needs, and we will help outline them in this article. We’re going to cover:
- Visual impairment apps
- Hearing impairment apps
- Apps for physical disabilities and to help improve motor skills
- Other useful accessibility apps
- Built-in accessibility functions for your smartphone
- Tips for using these apps
Check out these apps, and our information about how some functionality may be built right into your phone to help with accessibility. Then check out our tips at the end to help you make good use of these great new apps.
Apps to help with visual impairments
These apps are great for people who are blind, or have partial or deteriorating vision loss. They help you see things that are difficult to see, and they can help direct you and increase your safety. They can help you navigate, help you see things around the house, and just make life a little easier.
1. Tap Tap See
This is one of the best apps we’ve found that can help deal with visual impairments. The concept is simple: double tap on your screen to take a photo of an every day object such as money, food items, books, or anything else you can think of, and the app will announce to you what you are looking at. Not only can it identify images based on a stored bank of them, but you can save images from your own camera roll and label them, so things you user regularly can be identified specifically for you!
2. Be My Eyes
This app is also designed for those who can’t see, and allows you to be told what you’re looking at, but in a more detailed way than Tap Tap See. With Be My Eyes, a volunteer is at the ready, waiting for you to send an image or video, so they can tell you exactly what you’re looking at. Someone will accept your call, and describe to you what you were looking at, which can be a lot more accurate than an app that determines this from a stored image bank – though it takes a little longer.
3. Ariadne GPS
This isn’t your general GPS app, and it does much more. This GPS can speak out to you, describing street names, numbers and addresses, buildings, intersections, and much more. That way, when you’re using it for direction, it can explain what you’re looking at as well. You can even save places you visit often, and it will warn you when you’re near them or passing by, which is especially useful if you frequently travel on busses or trains. Unfortunately, this app is only available for Apple devices.
Download it Now: iOS
4. Big Text/Make It Big
These apps are useful for enlarging text on your device, either when you’re using it yourself, or if you need to show text to others because you have difficulty speaking. You can use the slider that controls the size of the text to customize it to your current circumstances, and your personal preferences.
This app available for Apple devices, and allows you to point your camera at an item, and the app will tell you what it is. This app is similar to Tap Tap See, but might be a good alternative if you find Tap Tap See isn’t as accurate at determining what your household items are.
Download It Now: iOS
Hearing impairment assistance apps
These next few apps are best suited to those who have a hearing impairment, are deaf, or experience partial hearing loss from time to time. They can help you hear things better and make things louder, teach you how to cope better with hearing loss, and can transcribe words for you if you have total hearing loss.
RogerVoice is an amazing app that help transcribe phone calls for those with hearing impairments. RogerVoice works in two ways; first, you get automated, real-time captioning, so you can read a written transcript as you have a call, and second, with automated voice synthesis, so you can transcribe responses, and a voice message will be sent to your recipient. Just because you have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean you need to give up phone calls!
7. Tap Tap
This is an app available only for Apple devices, but is especially useful for those who have very little hearing ability, or total hearing loss. Tap Tap alerts users when a loud noise has been made in their vicinity. This app draws your attention to things you otherwise may not have noticed, including people speaking to you, or even something as serious as a dangerous situation beginning. You can also adjust the sensitivity level based on your own comfort level, or the type of area that you’re in.
Download It Now: iOS
8. Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation began first as software for your computer, but you can now get it for your Android or Apple device! Boasting the most accurate speech recognition software in the world, you can use it to dictate words that are spoken in the room. If you have hearing loss, this is particularly useful, as you can use it to listen to others while they speak, and read the words they are saying. In addition, Dragon is great because it’s very popular, so if you need this tool integrated in your workplace, or school, you might have a better chance!
9. ASL Dictionary
If you’re interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL), are in the process of learning it, or need a reference for using it, then the ASL Dictionary app is what you need. This app contains over 5000 signs you can use, in either image or video form, which can really help improve your signing. It’s easy to quickly search for a word or phrase in the app, so you can use the appropriate sign in a pinch.
10. TV Louder
Are you constantly listening to the TV way too loud, and irritating the people you live with? With this app and a pair of headphones, you can use your device as a way of amplifying the sound of your TV. Currently this app is only available for iOS devices, but it will save the quality of your TV speakers, and allow you to listen to the TV at a comfortable level, all the time.
Download It Now: iOS
Apps that help with physical disabilities, development, and enhancing motor skills
These apps all support learning, and assistance with physical or developmental disabilities, and can help make life a little easier, or help improve personal development.
11. Assistive touch
Assistive touch provides you with a floating panel on your device screen, so you can more easily access all of your favorite apps, such as the camera, your social apps, increasing the brightness, clearing background apps to make your phone run faster – and anything else you need to prioritize.
Avaz is an amazing apps for those with Autism, and has won numerous awards, including being on MITs list of the Top 35 innovations of 2011. Avaz was developed in collaboration with schools and children, in an attempt to improve the communication skills of children with autism. It is also a useful app for developing communication in children with Down Syndrome, Aspergers, Apraxia, and other similar non-verbal conditions. Over time, Avaz can really make an improvement to communication skills, so try it out today!
13. LOOK AT ME
Like Avaz, this is a similar app brought to you by Samsung that can help with Autism, and increase communication skills in your child. Currently, this app is only available on Samsung devices, or for Android devices.
Download It Now: Android
Another app for non-verbal communicators to help them develop their skills, JABtalk helps both children, and adults by offering an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device. With personalized voices and images, and an easy-to-use interface, JABtalk can help bring words to those who struggle to speak. JABtalk has evolved since its inception, and can assist those with special needs, children and toddlers, stroke patients, speech language pathologists, and many others.
Download It Now: Android
Other useful accessibility apps
These apps aren’t really for any specific accessibility need, but they can be extremely useful for a variety of reasons. We would recommend trying at least one out, to see how it helps improve your daily life.
Assistants: Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana
AI assistants can be extremely useful to helping with accessibility, as they can help do things you regularly do with ease. With a simple tap, or even voice commands that require no touch, you can have your smartphone perform tasks for you such as searches, telling you the weather, helping you find websites, setting reminders, adding to your calendar, and so much more. Try giving your preferred company’s assistant a try!
Accessibility scanners are apps that help assist you with your own app development, and check how accessible it is for others to use. These apps make suggestions about ways you can improve the apps you use, and allow you to send suggestions to the developers. They act as a way of making sure the app is useable by everyone, which will help make it more popular in the long run.
If you need help translating text, there are a variety of options out there for you, including Google Translate, our #1 recommendation. It’s extremely simple to use, and instantly translates text, entire websites, images, and even videos into whatever language you need. It also detects source language, so often, even if you don’t know what language you’re dealing with, Google does!
IFTTT (or, IF This, Then That) is a wonderful service that allows you to do much more with the service you love to use, by linking them together, and automatically completing tasks for you. You can sync up different apps, and get IFTTT to automatically do things on your behalf. Some examples of the literally infinite tasks you can complete include:
- Automatically post to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others – when you post to one site
- Start brewing coffee when your FitBit registers that you are awake
- Turn on your Phillips Hue lights when you get home
- Receive an emergency call or text if your smoke detector detects smoke, or you’re in the presence of an emergency situation
- Turn switches around your house on or off
- Keep records of calls, text messages, etc. in a spreadsheet
- Automatically back up your files and photos
Hearing Loss Simulator
This app is great if you know someone who has hearing loss, and want to experience what it feels like, and how they hear sounds due to the loss of hearing. Simply download the app, choose a configuration to listen to, and then lug in headphone and experience life without hearing.
Download It Now: iOS
These kinds of apps can help magnify texts, either directly on your phone, or things you are physically holding in your hand, such as a book, receipt, or other items, typically with text, that you may need to enlarge. Point your device camera at the object you want to magnify, and watch it get bigger – instantly.
Skype is a well-developed, useful, Internet-based chat service, that allows for instant messaging, voice, and video chat. One of the best features is the video chat, which can be useful for those with hearing impairments, as you can visually communicate or even use sign language – all for free using only an Internet connection. Connect with any of your contacts, and talk as much as you want. If this sounds useful, check out our free course on how to use Skype.
Built-in accessibility features on your smart phone
If you’re looking for some help with accessibility while using your Android device, then check out these great things you can do. For more info, check out the Android accessibility help page.
- Google TalkBack – speaks to you and describes your actions and tells you about notifications and alerts.
- Select to Speak – choose specific items you want read or described aloud to you.
- Switch Access – can choose to use a keyboard, mouse, or other device instead of the touch screen.
- Voice Access – control your device with your voice instead of by touching the screen.
- BrailleBack – view a braille display on your device.
- Magnification, display size, font size, contrast, and color options – you can completely customize the size of what you’re viewing.
- Captions – turn on captions for your device, for when you’re viewing video.
There are many accessibility features built in to your iPhone, and these are just a few examples of what you can do. For a complete list, check out Apple’s accessibility help page here.
- Switch Control – allows you to add a switch such as your camera, choose an action for it, and then use it instead of needing to always go through multiple screens to do something.
- Shake to Undo – shake your device to undo something you just did, rather than needing to go back into whatever application you were using.
- Keyboard/Mouse – use an exterior device such as a keyboard or mouse if you don’t like or can’t use the touch screen.
- Connect hearing devices – connect your own hearing device so you can listen properly through your personal device.
- Subtitles and captioning – for when you need captions for things you can’t hear, such as videos.
Tips for using accessibility-friendly apps
1. Consult with a health care professional and/or caregiver before using the app.
Though it’s unlikely that this could affect you in any way, it’s possible that certain apps could affect your condition or treatment in a negative, possibly by weakening hearing or vision, or slowing down development. Make sure your health care practitioner or caregiver is aware you’re using the app, so that it doesn’t interfere with your progress in any way.
2. Look for similar apps that might be an improvement on the one you’ve tried out.
If you’re using an app that just isn’t working for you, there’s a chance you’ll be able to find something comparable in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Sometimes an app needs time to gain popularity, and because accessibility-friendly apps are such a niche market, it’s possible they’re a bit harder to find. But keep looking and you may find another version that’s an improvement on the app you’re currently using.
3. Always exercise caution and take appropriate safety measures.
These apps can be incredibly useful and even protect you from possible dangers. However, there are possible dangers they could pose, especially if they malfunction. Make sure you always have a backup plan, and can make arrangements for assistance if something goes wrong with your app.
Make sure you know before hand how to contact someone through the app that can assist you with customer service, or in a pinch, and have someone you can call, like a friend or family member, that can come and help you if necessary.
4. Take care of your personal information and protect your privacy.
The apps you download may ask for some basic information, such as your name, age, location, and the state of your condition – which are all perfectly normal and acceptable. Many apps even require permission to know your location to work effectively, especially if they’re an app that directs you or provides you with information about your surroundings.
However, apps shouldn’t be asking you for your Social Security Number, full address, financial or banking information, or other very personal information. You can always contact someone through the app and ask why they require the information first. Regardless, be sure to guard this info carefully, and if you aren’t sure you should be giving the info out – you probably shouldn’t.
Hopefully one or more of these apps can help you with your accessible needs. If you’ve had an experience with an app that helped with accessibility, and you want to recommend, let us know in the comments so we can add it to our list. Make sure you download and try out an app out today – after all, what do you have to lose?